Monday, August 16, 2004
Courtesy of Zemblan patriot D.B.: You probably know that Julia Child, television's "French Chef," died over the weekend at age 91. We commemorate her passing by linking to an item we had not seen before, a remarkably brave letter Ms. Child wrote to a fundraising committee at her alma mater, Smith College, at the height of the red scare, mere weeks before the start of the Army-McCarthy hearings:
March 12, 1954Will you join us as we hoist a jelly-jar of Domaine de la Mordoree Chateauneuf-du-Pape Cuvee de la Reine des Bois 2000 in her honor?
Mrs. Aloise B. Heath, Secretary
Committee for Discrimination in Giving
My dear Mrs. Heath:
Another fellow alumna of Smith College has forwarded to me a copy of an undated form letter containing your printed signature as secretary of a committee whose members are unidentified. This letter names five members of the Smith College faculty as having been or as now being associated with organizations cited as Communist dominated or as Communist fronts, etc. . . . .
I know you feel you are doing your patriotic duty towards Smith College and towards the United States, or you would not have allowed your name to be used at the end of your committee's letter. But I respectfully suggest that you are doing both your college and your country a disservice.
We, as alumnae, have voted, in the correct parliamentary fashion, for each member of the Board of Trustees to act in our behalf. Our trustees, who are answerable to us, have duly selected President Wright to administer the college. It is an extremely serious matter to accuse by implication five faculty members of being traitors to the United States; and furthermore to accuse the college of knowingly harboring these "traitors". According to proper democratic methods, charges of this grave nature should first be brought to the attention of the President and the Trustees. You have assumed a responsibility for which you were not appointed. It is clear that you do not trust your own elected officers, and that you do not have confidence in democratic procedures . . . .
In the blood-heat of pursuing the enemy, many people are forgetting what we are fighting for. We are fighting for our hard-won liberty and our freedom; for our Constitution and the due processes of our laws; and for the right to differ in ideas, religion and politics. I am convinced that in your zeal to fight against our enemies, you, too, have forgotten what you are fighting for.
Certainly democratic procedures are often slow. But their very slowness gives full opportunity for free debate, free investigation, the right of the accuser to present his case, and the right of the defendant to hear the charges and be faced with the evidence. None of these rights are available in the totalitarian countries; nor have you made them available to the persons you have accused.
One of the purposes of Smith College, and the main reason why its alumnae support it, is that it is a free, democratic institution, privately endowed, and subject to no political pressures from any government or any party. It can operate freely as long as its Trustees and its President have the courage to act as they see fit, with the support of the alumnae. In this very dangerous period of our history where, through fear and confusion, we are assailed continually by conflicting opinions and strong appeals to the emotions, it is imperative that our young people learn to sift truth from half-truth; demagoguery from democracy; totalitarianism in any form, from liberty. The duty of Smith College is, as I see it, to give her daughters the kind of education which will ensure that they will use their minds clearly and wisely, so that they will be able to conduct themselves as courageous and informed citizens of the United States.
I am sending to Smith College in this same mail, along with a copy of this letter, a check to duplicate my annual contribution to the Alumnae Fund. I am confident that our Trustees and our President know what they are doing. They are only too well aware of the dangers of totalitarianism, as it is always the great institutions of learning that are attacked first in any police state. For the colleges harbor the "dangerous" people, the people who know how to think, whose minds are free.
Very sincerely yours,
Julia McWilliams Child